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Archive for the 'USH: Slavery & Abolitionism' Category

How an 1830s Children’s Magazine Taught Hard Truths About Slavery

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

From 1836 to 1839, the American Anti-Slavery Society published The Slave’s Friend, a juvenile periodical edited by abolitionist Lewis Tappan. Each issue, specially sized to fit small hands, was 16 pages in length and featured a mix of stories, news items, and poems meant to gently but firmly tell white children about the evils of slavery. The New York Public Library’s digital collection offers a small collection of scans of the magazine’s 1837 issues.



Lecture: Three Perspectives on the Peculiar Institution

Friday, October 16th, 2015

Here is my lecture, in Hegelian form–with a discomforting, counter-intuitive, and admittedly incomplete synthesis.

The Anatomy of a Slave Ship

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

“The threat of insurrection was ever present. The captain assured a nervous Riland that he “kept such a guard on the slaves as would baffle all their efforts, should they attempt to rise.” They had already tried once while on the coast of Africa and failed. When the slaves were brought above, the main deck became a closely guarded prison yard. One feature of the slave ship, on which Riland did not remark, was the netting, a fencelike assemblage of ropes that would be stretched by the crew around the ship to prevent slaves from jumping overboard.”

Read more from Slate

5 Things About Slavery You Probably Didn’t Learn In Social Studies: A Short Guide To ‘The Half Has Never Been Told’

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Edward Baptist’s new book, “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery And The Making Of American Capitalism”, drew a lot of attention last month after the Economist said it was too hard on slave owners.

What you might not have taken away from the ensuing media storm is that “The Half Has Never Been Told” is quite a gripping read. Baptist weaves deftly between analysis of economic data and narrative prose to paint a picture of American slavery that is pretty different from what you may have learned in high school Social Studies class.

But for those of you who are strapped for time, or who want a peek into the book before committing to the full 420 pages, here are five of his key arguments.

Interview with Edward Baptist

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Baptist, a professor of history at Cornell, just released “The Half Has Never Been Told,” laying  out a sweeping economic history of slavery. Baptist traces the flow of human capital from the Atlantic seaboard to the cotton fields of the deep South. He describes how slavers used whippings to extract more work from their property. He details how slave labor and loans secured with human collateral helped drive the industrial revolution.

These observations aren’t new. Baptist’s real achievement is to ground these financial abstractions in the lives of ordinary people. In vivid passages, he describes the sights, smells and suffering of slavery. He writes about individual families torn apart by global markets. Above all, Baptist sets out to show how America’s rise to power is inextricable from the suffering of black slaves.

Naturally, this makes some people rather uncomfortable. Reviewing Baptist’s book last month, the Economist huffed that “all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains. This is not history; it is advocacy.” A few days later, the magazine took the rare step of withdrawing the review, pointing out that slavery was “an evil system.”

Here is the interview in Salon

The Spread of U.S. Slavery, 1790–1860

Friday, December 12th, 2014

This visualization speaks volumes

Four myths about slavery in the US

Friday, December 12th, 2014

People think they know everything about slavery in the United States, but they don’t. They think the majority of African slaves came to the American colonies, but they didn’t. They talk about 400 hundred years of slavery, but it wasn’t. They claim all Southerners owned slaves, but they didn’t. Some argue it was a long time ago, but it wasn’t.

Daina Ramey Berry from the University of Texas dispels four myths (listed above)

Thomas Jefferson’s 1769 Newspaper Ad Seeking a Fugitive Slave

Sunday, October 5th, 2014



Aside from a handful of slaves (including some of Sally Hemings’s children), Jefferson never freed his bondspeople—unlike George Washington, who left provisions in his will for the emancipation of his slaves upon Martha’s death.*

The Global Slavery Index

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

The Global Slavery Index provides a ranking of 162 countries, reflecting a combined measure of three factors: estimated prevalence of modern slavery by population, a measure of child marriage, and a measure of human trafficking in and out of a country. The measure is heavily weighted to reflect the first factor, prevalence. A number one ranking is the worst, 160 is the best.

The Walk Free Foundation asserts there are 30 million slaves suffering today.

The Value of the Stock of Slaves

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

In 1836, cotton from the South accounted for 59 percent of this country’s exports. Effectively, in the run up to the Civil War, our leading export was produced by slave labor. This cotton enriched our country financially and powered us into the modern world. “Whoever says industrial revolution,” wrote the historian Eric Hobsbawm, “must say cotton.”

The men and women who grew this cotton not only enriched through their labor, but through their very flesh. At the onset of the Civil War enslaved black people were valued at $3 billion, more than all the factories, railroads, and the productive capacity of America combined. This wealth was traded throughout the South regularly, and that trade enriched America even further.